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Françoise Pardos, Pardos Marketing, February 2006


Why the success of plastics in packaging?

Plastics have many properties, often equivalent, or inferior, to those of traditional packaging materials, but the combination of these average properties generally gives a unique synergy. Plastics are expected to be, and actually can be, both a flexible glass and a transparent metal.

Plastics are light, generally lighter than other packaging materials. Even when they are heavier, than wood, paper or board, their higher mechanical strength allows using fewer plastics. Plastics are generally less bulky than the materials they replaced, film versus paper and board, plastic bottles versus glass bottles.

Plastics can be made into a great variety of package shapes, by their main processes, bottle blow molding, extrusion of film and sheet, thermoforming of thin wall containers, molding of containers and closures, and many other processes of lesser quantitative importance.

Most plastics are good barriers to water and moisture, an obvious advantage over paper and board that have to be treated. Barrier plastics, materials and processes permit to greatly improve the oxygen, gas and flavor barrier of the plastics they are associated with, however never achieving the complete barrier provided by glass and metal. Plastics can be most easily associated with traditional materials, boosting the overall performances to fit almost all packaging needs.

The major trend is the final replacement of traditional materials, up to aluminum, steel (in closures and in cans), and glass, by the irresistible push of plastics. More and more, plastics are becoming the one and only packaging material.

Plastics must be able to comply with an extraordinary, and sometimes contradictory, broad range of expectations: to be well adapted to the contents, made with the greatest variety of shapes, designs, colors, prints, to stay safe, non toxic, clean, economical, pleasant to see, touch and even hear, resisting to extremes of temperature, from sterilization, freezing, cooking, barrier to gases, water and aromas, easy to open, to use, to close back, friendly to the environment, and finally disposable without a second thought. All this is expected from the new packaging materials, plastics.

These trends add up to ever more plastics packaging, but not necessarily more tonnage and more money to the packaging suppliers. Plastics packaging is increasingly an "invisible bubble", thin and light. The most extraordinary package probably is the 300 grams of stretch film, putting together a pallet of hundreds of kilos and costing less than a dollar.

For emerging country markets, the continuing rise of plastics has a major implication. The developing packaging industries immediately adopt the latest solutions, as adapted to their needs. The intermediate steps which the industrialized countries took in the last thirty years will just not happen in emerging economies. Packaging solutions are to be plastics, immediately.


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